Having a career change? Here are our top tips to ace your first interview

Having a career change? Here are our top tips to ace your first interview
29 Nov 2022

There has been a perfect storm brewing for employers over the past couple of years. The Great Resignation, combined with the UK’s cost of living crisis, the skills shortage and impending recession have all introduced a number of challenges for employers and made it far harder to recruit top talent.


The Great Resignation saw candidates leaving their roles in droves and an imbalance, with the number of vacancies far exceeding the number of quality candidates. This led to a shift in power and offered more control to the candidates who are now seeking higher salaries, flexible working and better benefits packages as a result. Employers are now in a position where they need to recognise and respond to the needs of candidates in order to attract the right people.


This competitive marketplace has meant that both the clients we work with and ourselves at Four Recruitment are needing to reconsider hiring requirements. Being flexible on the essential skills and qualities of a candidate allows access to a wider talent pool and potentially individuals from different sectors. For example, a hiring manager for a marketing position might be more willing to take on someone who spent the first 15 years of their career in finance if their soft skills and determination are a good cultural fit. 


However, this really depends on the business and what they offer in terms of training and development. A company that provides training to all new joiners is likely to be more open to hiring someone from a different background. 


Below we’ve rounded up our top tips for candidates looking to smash their first job interview in an entirely new industry.


  1. Understand your reason for wanting a career change

Firstly, understanding why you want a career change can help you to answer any potential interview questions about this. Having a strong answer prepared can help to impress a recruiter and employer.


For example, is your new industry an area you have been passionate about for a while and you are now ready to take the next step? Perhaps you have been undertaking some qualifications alongside your full time job and now feel that you are qualified to take on a role in a different industry. This shows your determination and ability to self-lead.


Perhaps you’re looking for a different direction in life, for example transitioning from an office based role to something more active for a lifestyle change. These soft skills are still transferable. Either way, having strong answers prepared for potential questions will help you.


  1. Have realistic salary expectations

When you are moving into an entirely new industry, be prepared to jump from a more advanced salary in your current position to potentially an entry level salary in your new role. It’s important to have realistic expectations for starting afresh rather than jumping into something new due to passion and ending up being disappointed at the financial outcome.


Do some online research, looking at job boards, salary guides and salary data for your new job role to understand the average salary and requirements of the role. This way, you can understand what you are getting yourself into and can be prepared to answer any questions about salary expectations. 


We always recommend having a conversation about salary early on in the hiring process. This way you can ensure that the salary on offer matches your expectations, and if it doesn’t then you can avoid wasting any more of yours or the hiring manager’s time.


You may also find it useful to speak to a specialist recruitment consultant in your industry, for example there are HR-specific recruitment agencies, such as ourselves, that could help you get a role in this area. 


Recruitment consultants deal with a variety of job roles every day and are experts in understanding salaries. When you work with a recruitment consultancy, you have the peace of mind that they will negotiate a fair and accurate salary with the hiring manager. 


  1. Highlight your soft skills

To a certain degree, solid corporate experience in an unrelated role suggests you have transferable skills that could be beneficial. Exposure in a corporate  environment can be highly valuable as it can demonstrate the ability to operate at this level and in this setting.


Employers ideally want to hire a candidate that has closely matched experience to the role, therefore it’s important that you signpost to employers how your soft skills and experiences can align to your new career path. Make the effort to join the dots and demonstrate how you can adapt and learn in a new role. If you have undertaken any additional training or courses it is always worth mentioning as this shows your commitment and passion to your new industry. 


We strongly recommend emphasising the following in your covering letter and interview:


  • Additional training
  • Voluntary experience
  • Independent learning/research
  • Soft skills and personal attributes
  • Learning styles, educational achievement and cognitive ability


  1. Prepare for key interview questions

We regularly see questions such as:


  • Talk me through why you’ve chosen to transition your career into this area?
  • What key skills and attributes do you feel align with this new role?
  • How will you work to learn the skills and competencies required to execute this role effectively? 
  • What additional training or self study have you undertaken to upskill yourself in this area, if any? 
  • What do you think you will find most challenging about transitioning your career into this field?
  • Which particular aspects of the role do you think you will find the most challenging?


Questions around softer skills such as personality will help ascertain whether you have the right attitude for the role. I always advise employers that it's better to hire someone with bags of attitude and desire rather than someone with a wealth of experience but no drive. You can always teach or train industry specific skills but enthusiasm and passion are innate and harder to come by, so this will make you stand out amongst your competition. 


Have specific scenarios prepared for when you may be asked about problem solving skills, e.g. where your perseverance has resulted in the desired outcome or where you have gone above and beyond. When recruiting internally, we like to ask these scenario-based questions in order to explore a candidate’s personality to see whether they match our core values.


  1. Don’t display common red flags

The problem with changing careers is that you can go from being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big pond. All those years honing your skills in another industry are just not required, and this can take a period of adjustment and willingness to start again. 


A warning sign to an employer would be showing that you don’t want to change your approach, and that you are not willing to learn or explore scenarios outside of your comfort zone. If you’re wanting to change careers, it is expected that you will be open to all these situations.


Here are common warning signs we see - make sure to avoid any of these:


  • Having weak reasons for transitioning into a new role - make sure you have a strong, justified answer prepared
  • Poor academic attainment – you will need a reasonable level of ability to be able to learn new skills. Even training courses you have done online for free can demonstrate willingness to learn
  • Signs that a move is about financial gain - do not go into the interview and immediately ask about salary or try to negotiate higher than an entry level salary
  • Poorly sighted motivations - show your passion and drive by researching your new industry and demonstrating your knowledge


  1. Discuss the potential onboarding process

The onboarding process for someone entering the industry afresh should be different from other roles you have started with previous experience. You probably won’t be treated like a raw junior entering the business - it is likely you would receive a more personalised approach. Getting across your knowledge and transferable skills is key to receiving effective onboarding so that an employer doesn’t patronise or undermine you.


It is likely you will discuss any training opportunities in the interview anyway, but if it is not discussed, here are a couple of talking points that can help:


  • Shadowing: Would there be opportunities to shadow managers higher up in a certain department, or even different members of the team to get a deep understanding of business operations?
  • Exposure to formal training: What training opportunities are available? Would they be able to put you on any training courses or pay for any industry accreditations that may be beneficial to your development?
  • Free courses they can recommend: Are there any online courses they know of on top of what you may have already done that could enhance your development in your own time?


These tips should help you to ace your first interview in a new industry and hopefully have you well on your way to a new role! The more prepared you are, the more likely you are to get your foot in the door of your new industry


interview  etiquette in 2024 (1).png

Now we know this topic is basic and fundamental and we don’t want to teach people how to...

Andy Q&A.png

Introducing FourTech: The Ideal Hub for Ambitious Tech Talent When ambition meets opportunity,...

Data-Driven Decisions How Great Businesses Leverage HR Technology for Success.png

Since technology was first adopted into HR applications, it has been proactively empowering...

View all news »